17 Simple Steps to Speed Up Your WordPress Site

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Obviously, I advocate WordPress and love the platform dearly. It is the best content management system (CMS) available today. However, there are times that it becomes a bit heavy for use and bogs down the server.

Whether you have a lot of plugins, or just a slow environment, WordPress can be a bit resource intensive and slow at times.

This is not only a big deal for SEO, but it can also be a big deal for guests and users.

Why is Speed Important? 

You typically have less than 3 seconds to capture somebody arriving on your website. That’s not a whole lot of time. Now, if your site takes more than 3 seconds to load, you may lose someone who hasn’t even seen your content yet.


This can lead to decreased customer satisfaction and decreased sales as a result. If your site takes too long to load, you will lose the visitor before you even had a chance to convert them.

Also, speed is considered for SEO. Google does use this as a metric to see how well you would rank for a particular keyword. If your site is slow, you will lose visitors and also have a poor rank.

Mega bummer.

Fortunately, there are a lot of steps you can take for speeding up your WordPress site.

How to Speed Up WordPress

This is not ordered by importance or any ranking. It’s just a list of things that you can do to increase your site’s speed. Doing any of these items will help speed up your site.

 1. Choose a Great Host

Hosting, hosting, hosting. Now there are dozens of criteria to select a great host. I’m not going to dive into too much detail with this post, but I will let you in on a couple basic things to keep in mind: You get what you pay for. This is especially true with hosting. Typically hosting is divided into three major categories.

  • Shared
  • Virtual Private Server (VPS)
  • Dedicated

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting means you share a space with an unknown amount of other customers. You all have to share the bandwidth, the space and the resources of that server. It’s almost like sharing a house with somebody. If there is another person in the kitchen, you can’t possibly be in the same place, you would have to share those resources.

Similarly, if someone is using more resources than you, you’re speed gets affected. The more traffic you plan on generating, the more resources you’ll likely need.

This is usually the budget option and is offered by many companies. It’s not the best choice, but if you’re just getting started it’s an affordable option. You can always upgrade.

Virtual Private Server

Virtual Private Server hosting is the next level up from shared. You have dedicated resources, but not a dedicated server. Generally, you will have a certain amount of allotted resources in your plan that can be utilized by you and only you. Your environment is virtualized and you have a guaranteed bandwidth and guaranteed resource allowance.

I’ve used a VPS hosting and submitted it to some brutal amounts of traffic. When I was heavy into running traffic, my server was capable of handling over 1000 requests/minute. It did this without issues. I’m sure it could handle more as well.

Dedicated Hosting

The next level up from VPS is dedicated. This means you get a dedicated server all to yourself. Nobody else can use those resources, but you. The resources allotment and capabilities of these servers are usually greater and you have a lot more flexibility in your environment.

Typically this is overkill for small publishers, and this is really suited for a lot of traffic and enterprise applications.

However, you may want the privatized environment that it offers. In either case, this is the superb option if you really take your web business seriously. Of course, this comes at a hefty price that is usually north of $100.00/month.

The Hosting company that I personally recommend is called WiredTree. They are based out of Chicago and hands down have the best support. Period.

Be it WordPress or otherwise, they will help you 24/7 and have the most amazing team I have ever seen with hosting. They run unrestricted, secure environments that scale easily and quickly.

Furthermore, you have no restrictions on how you can use the server. They give you the freedom of having a WHM and cPanel access. This gives you the ultimate control of your environment.

They only offer VPS, and Dedicated environments, and they are 100% worth the price. I’ve been using them for over 6 years and NEVER had any downtime or any issues whatsoever.

Every question I have I send them and they respond within 5 minutes. The service is amazing, the company and staff are amazing and best of all, their environments are amazing.

2. Use a Great Theme / Framework

First off let me define the difference between a theme and a framework. A theme is usually a design ready out of the box and ready to go. It usually has a lot of features you may not use all the time. With that said not all themes are the best. Especially, the ones with fewer installs.

A lot of the default themes, yes that means Twenty Sixteen, are very fast out of the gate. It’s lightweight, doesn’t have bloat and is very efficient. The code is small, but it isn’t as robust as other themes.

A framework is literally that, a framework to allow you to build your website on. It is usually not as flexible out of the box and usually requires some knowledge of code to build on it. Frameworks are excellent if you plan on being a developer and want to develop full blown sites for clients or for yourself. The best part about frameworks is that they are as bulky as you want them to be. Usually, this means they are very lightweight and load quickly.

My preferred theme, however, is Enfold and it stands up against any framework I’ve tested. This is for both speed, reliability, community and functionality. Oh and did I mention, it is easy to rank on SEO with as well?

However, if you are going the framework route, I recommend Genesis as it’s the most popular and speediest framework available.

3. Use a Great Caching Plugin

Caching is another interesting area of focus. Caching improve load times of sites by storing local data. Your browser has cache and your server does too.

Cached files are quickly and easily accessible and don’t need to be parsed multiple times therby decreasing load times for your pages significantly

Sounds complex, but it’s quite simple. And even simpler to implement. I recommend W3 Total Cache for caching. Simply install and activate and your ready to go.

Your site will load considerably faster with that simple step. Keep in mind, however, if you are modifying your site and that modification isn’t showing up, it’s likely because you’re loading the cached version of the site. Flush your cache or clear your browser cache and try again.

4. Use a Great Content Delivery Network

A Content Delivery Network or CDN can help dramatically speed up your WordPress site. Nearly every large publisher makes use of a CDN. CDNs take your static WordPress files (images, Javascripts, CSS, videos, etc) and enable visitors to access them to the nearest remote server to their IP. This enables users to download that content nearly instantly and significantly decreases your server load time and HTTP requests.

There are paid and free options. The paid options that I recommend and have used are Max CDN and Cloudflare CDN. Max CDN is very easy to integrate and is simple to use. CloudFlare CDN is secure and has a lot of additional features.

CloudFlare has the added bonus that it interacts well with W3 total cache and also helps with your site’s security.

There are also Free CDNs available, although you get what you pay for.

5. Optimize Those Images

An image optimizer automatically compresses your images without losing too much quality. The result is a smaller image size and more efficient loading of those images.

WP-SmushIt is a free plugin that does this to all your images automatically. Couple this with a CDN and now you are in business.

As you upload your images, WP-SmushIt automatically optimizes them without the need of additional intervention on your end.

6. Reduce Homepage Load

The simplest way of speeding up your WordPress site is to make the homepage easier and less bulky. Remove any unnecessary widgets, images, plugins etc that load on the home page. Just keep it simple. Reduce the clutter as much as possible and try to avoid putting your whole list of blog articles on your home page.

Now, if you run a blog, maybe you want to display your blog articles. In which case, reduce the amount of characters per excerpt by using the more tag and reduce the amount of posts that load. Keep it at a maximum of 5 to ensure adequate speed.

Remember, keep your homepage as simple as possible so that users stick around longer and it also loads faster.

7. Optimize the WordPress Database

Your host should know how to fix this issue very well. Sometimes WordPress databases crash and need repairing. Sometimes there is bloat in your database. If you have a managed host, they can fix any crashed tables.

Then you can use the WP-Optimize plugin to optimize your tables. This reduces the overhead of those tables and helps remove anything that is not being used. The lighter your tables, the less your code has to crawl through to find what it’s searching for.

8. Disable Hotlinking of Your Content

Hotlinking is when somebody references your images, or content from your site using one of your server’s links. So in other words, they link to your content that you are hosting, but keep their text on their page.

This can load images from your server or CDN without users even visiting your site! This becomes more problematic if you create a lot of infographics or cool images on your site. Users can link to those images indirectly. Your .htaccess file needs to be modified in order for htis to work.

Copy this in your .htaccess file:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?YOUR-URL.com [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?google.com [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?feeds2.feedburner.com/YOUR-URL [NC]
RewriteRule \.(jpg|jpeg|png|gif)$ – [NC,F,L]

Replace YOUR-URL with your website URL and FeedBurner URL, respectively.

9. Disable Hotlinking of Your Content

An expires header allows the clients or browsers to keep local files, like images, javascript, css, etc) on their local machines so they don’t have to fetch them as frequently. This will be another .htaccess modification. This method doesn’t really speed up your site for new users, but it does for users who frequent your site.

Copy the following code and paste it in your .htaccess file

ExpiresActive On
ExpiresByType image/jpeg A1209600
ExpiresByType image/jpg A1209600
ExpiresByType image/png A1209600
ExpiresByType image/gif A1209600

1209600 represents that amount of seconds in 2 weeks. You can modify this, but 2 weeks time is sufficient to keep the data stored on the users machine without having to refresh it.

10. Use a Comment Manager

Comments can hog resources, especially if they are stored locally on your server or database. I use a plugin called Disqus on every site I have. This outsources your comments to the Disqus community and you can get a lot of traffic from the community as well as have all your comments managed there.

This third party management system enables you to remove nearly all the spam comments and gives you full control of how you want your users to comment on your content. Because your comments are managed by a third party, you don’t have to worry about spam bots stuffing your comments full of spam. Disqus handles it and prevents it from even appearing to the bots. The system works very well for large volume sites.

Furthermore, your comments aren’t loaded on your site, they are loaded from Disqus, which actually functions a lot like a CDN for comments. I’ve seen a lot of large companies use Disqus for their comment management.

11. Don’t Be Lazy, Lazyload Your Images

Lazyloading images it the process for images loading only what’s in the user’s browser at any given time. By using lazyload, you can cut your resources significantly, by only loading what the user actively sees on the page. Sometimes users don’t scroll all the way down, so you don’t have to even load those images.

Of course, if you are using a CDN, this may not be entirely necessary, but if you aren’t this is a great way to cut down on server resources.

You can do this automatically with a plugin for WordPress called BJ Lazy Load.

12. Minify your Javascript and CSS

Minifying your Javascript and CSS will help speed up your WordPress site as well. Minification removes all unnecessary characters from your code and users only the essentials.

Less code means less bloat. Less bloat means your WordPress site will load faster.

A plugin called Better WordPress Minify can help you reduce the bloat of your CSS and Javascript and therefore help your content load faster.

13. Remove Post Revisions

Sometimes its nice to store revisions of your content. If you make a mistake you can have a fallback and this is great if your are editing. But, once you have your polished content up for the world to see, then you likely don’t need the bloat anymore.

This is especially true if you are backing up your database regularly. Your revisions will always be stored in that backup file. You should either delete them or keep a set amount of them. My recommendation is just to get rid of them as they are not necessary once you have your polished posts up on the web.

This is sort of part of the optimize database point, but it is something you want to make sure you include. You can use WP Optimize for this again, or use RVG Optimize Database for specifically removal of revisions.

14. Disable Pingbacks and Trackbacks

This feature is not really necessary. Basically, if someone else mentions your site and they also have pingbacks and trackbacks enabled on their site your site will get notified.

This has no impact on your backlinks and it does cause a lot of work for your server and site. For most sites, it’s not necessary and is enabled by default with WordPress.

15. Avoid Excess Plugins

Now, I know I’ve mentioned a lot of plugins here. A lot of these plugins are designed to speed up your WordPress site, and not cause bloat. It seems counter-intuitive, but reduce the amount of plugins on your site.

With the exception of these optimizing plugins, a lot of other plugins simply increase the load of your site. There is a general rule with too many plugins and what is considered excessive.

16. Update WordPress

Keeping your WordPress core code up to date ensures that you have the latest, lightest code available. Major updates do impact speed, performance and security. It’s important to update your WordPress whenever it’s available so that you have the most up to date polished code avaialble.

17. Keep all your Plugins and Themes/Frameworks Updated

Old code is just that, old code. The new code has been polished and is optimized for the best performance. A lot of the time these could be security or performance patches and you should certainly maintain them. When doing this, it’s important to make sure that you are also running the latest version of WordPress so you don’t have any conflicts.

Sometimes WordPress updates faster than the plugins or themes can catch up and they tend to break. In which case, again, it’s important to have a backup.

WP Soar’s Premium WordPress Support maintains this for you on a weekly basis. We’ll check all your plugins, themes and WordPress versions to ensure they are up to date. We do this without the risk of your site crashing or you having downtime. Because we back everything up before updating, there is never a risk for you to lose any of your data. Plus, we know a thing or two about WordPress.

How do you Speed Up Your WordPress Site? Is there anything that I missed? Please comment below.

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Ashley is head of customer experience and has over 4 years of customer knowledge. Her goal is 100% Customer Satisfaction. In her free time she enjoys hiking and trailblazing.